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Managing Communication – Knowledge and Information

                   Managing Communication, Knowledge and Information

Task 1 Understand how to assess knowledge needs and information

1.1   Range of decisions to be taken in a supermarket model

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Every business needs to have a proper organisation structure with key roles and responsibilities clearly divided and demarcated to ensure that no clashes and confusions of roles occur. As consultant on board of the executive committee of Waitrose supermarket, it is my goal to provide the guidance in this direction and other matters, in collaboration with the leaders who understand the situation firsthand. (Business organisation Structure, 2013)

Since a supermarket chain is a very complex system, with multiple products being promoted and sold, we need to be very clear on the division of roles and responsibilities from top down. Before we look at how the organisational and decision making responsibilities are allocated, let us understand the basic functioning of a supermarket. A supermarket brings together the suppliers and producers of various products to their target consumers by storing the products and arranging for their sale in the supermarkets’ various branches. Therefore the kind of management strategy would involve a complex chain of interactions and decision making, ranging from the farthest end (suppliers) to the ultimate destination which is the customers. At this moment, there are a lot of conflicts because of too many roles taken up by a few and some sharing similar duties. This will breed inefficiency and demoralise the team. (Ackley and Steenaken, 2012).

The strategy has to focus on the supermarket model which is a model of how the processes and structures are arranged in place to ensure a workable plan. These includes defining the requirements for overall business concept, designing the process for this, construction of the aspects of the process: structures, rules, regulations and procedure and implementation or Provisioning of the supermarket.

On the basis of this, one can outline the kinds of decision-making and roles which will be required to ensure a successful model. Decisions would be related to

  1. Supplier level- Production and release of stock
  2. Transportation of stock to warehouses
  3. Transporter level: delivery of each supplier’s stock to the Main warehouse.
  4. Warehouse level: Receipt and Assembly of Stock from different suppliers and arranging for their distribution.
  5. Transporters: Delivery of assembled warehouse stocks to the unit warehouses of the branches of the supermarkets.
  6. Stores: Organise, Arrange and display the goods received in attractive ways which can be easily accessed by their customers.
  7. Customers: who shop and purchase the stock based on their needs from the stores. (Ackley and Steenaken, 2012)

As is evident, there is a need for decisions at the macro level (overall system) and decisions at the micro level (individual unit level) involving different unitary systems. It is the successful integration of all these aspects which will ensure a successful supermarket system. Therefore the decision making has to be allocated carefully, with capable individuals being properly assigned roles. Decision making and role allocation would be based on experience, knowledge, background expertise etc. Three categories of decision making, involving three different categories of personnel are there: operational, managerial and strategic decision. The major personnel overseeing the overall aspects of running the process would be the

  1. Managing Director- overall direction and goals of the organisation.
  2. Finance and HR- Decisions of the finances (money invested, expenses, billing) as well as the recruitment and management of the employees.
  3. Senior heads for each aspect such as customer service, store management, purchasing, inspection and receiving goods, liaising with the suppliers and transporters, Public relations relating to promotional aspects and include publicity, marketing etc and Distribution. As ours is a supermarket, we may have to create our departments according to the products being promoted. So for e.g. clothing section would have its own marketing, sales, purchasing and inventory departments.

The successful integration requires open feedback, networking and communication between the internal departments and the external stakeholders and periodic assessment. (Organisation structure business studies and business English, 2013)

  • Explain the kind of information and knowledge needed to ensure each kind of decision taking

As the model shows, the whole process of running a supermarket is a complex project with the need to keep track on information being received on a daily basis from multiple sources. For our supermarket chain, we need to be in possession of the following kinds of information. Information on budget for organisation as well as individual departments should be made available so that Targets could be set for sales and profits. There should be an inventory of suppliers and stocks done on a regular basis so that volume, pricing, quality, and quantity can be monitored and there should be a constant source of stocks to meet demand.  This requires communication between the suppliers, department purchasers, and receivers of goods and finance departments. A transportation schedule should be in place so that picking up of raw materials and supplies and delivery of goods is done efficiently and any delays are informed in advance so that back up plans can be set in place. Inventories of Warehouse, which is an assembly of stock from different suppliers, should be in place. Current levels of products at suppliers, warehouse and stores have to be inventoried and monitored. This knowledge is critical in ensuring that no disruption occurs in the supply chain. The distribution network should be kept updated and responsive to last minute demands so that there is no running out of stocks. Information related to best and innovative practices on advertising such as best ways of arranging stocks, layout of stores, publicity and marketing strategies etc. The quality and quantity of human resources should be monitored. Changes in market conditions and trends in consumer interests and demands for different products should be available (Corruption Prevention Department, 2007)

  • Assessment: Internal and external sources of information and understanding

It is very important to ensure that correct and accurate information is obtained for helping in taking correct decisions and to help the business chart out its planning, execution and management strategies. And in such complex businesses as our supermarket, where there is a lot of information being received, it may be problematic to sort out what is relevant.  Information can be obtained from two kinds of sources- External and Internal.

External sources of information are those which provide information about the environment the company is operating in. These may include both print and online information. Examples include newspapers, magazines, trade reports, newsletters, government and legal reports, business, stock exchange, financial and market reports, company reports, business periodicals like Forbes, Business week, Harvard Business Review. This also includes information obtained through the internet e.g. websites, online documents such as pdfs, business and finance databases, information in libraries,  as well as those published by educational institutions.  This can also be obtained via conferences, video conferences, exchanges between businesses, their collaborators and stakeholders where ideas are exchanged.

Internal sources of information include that which is created and stored by the business themselves. This would include knowledge of its business plans, strategies, meeting reports, minutes, records of discussions and meetings, reports on how the targets are being set. Internal sources can be built up through communication with stakeholders, managerial staff, top level management, leaders and employees. Each department will have the best information on their functioning. Internal information also includes financial information (financial  performance of companies) ,  personnel , sales, marketing and administrative information.  (Information Needs Assessment, 2013) (Inc.com, 2014)

  • Justify recommendations for improvement on decision making and how to source for information

We conducted a needs based assessment to determine what kind of information was necessary and critical for the functioning of the various units. We informed all the departmental heads of the findings and the reason why these suggestions must be implemented. We found that at many levels decision making was not effective and efficient enough and this was contributing to a disorder in the management system of our supermarket. Prompt and judicious decision making would have prevented several failures in the customer service department as well as in avoiding a situation where demand became greater than supply. There was a great deal of time wasted on deciding appropriate choices. So, it was found necessary to ensure that at each level, in the chain the managers were empowered to take appropriate decisions, within a specific time period. Another fact which we discovered was the lack of sufficient sources of information to determine decisions. In this direction, we have recommended that several kinds of external sources of information such as online resources and print media be provided to the staff and there be frequent discussions on it regarding best practices.  At the same time, we also recommended the development of internal conversations as a way of understanding the available know how and creating inhouse resources of this intrinsic knowledge.

Task 2: To create strategies to increase personal networking to widen involvement in the decision making process

2.1 Stakeholders for a decision-making process

As the local manager of Morrison Supermarket, Stratford; I am in charge of the overall supervision and management of this branch chain. In this respect, my role is critical to the functioning of the supermarket, as I will be dealing with several important stakeholders and their cooperation and views are essential to how successfully I manage this.

All stakeholders have a vital role to play in this.  The owners or the private stakeholders have to make decisions pertaining to the profitability and distribution of the profits/dividends of the company. Staff are vital and their inputs are critical to how the business is being managed. The management board will have to oversee the general functioning of the company and ensure that all departments are aligned to the same strategic goal. Buyers’ power in influencing decision making is critical as their choices will determine the kind of products marketed and advertised by the company.  The presence of competitors will determine decisions as to marketing, advertising and branding strategies including promotions to ensure  that share of market is increased . Environmental factors such as political, legal, social and economic factors will influence the company and its interaction with the community and the society. Consumers are very important and their opinions will influence the practices of the business especially with reference to customer service, quality of products and ethics. Balogun, 2014)

2.2 Establishing contact with the stakeholders and develop business relationships.

As manager, for the successful functioning of my branch, I need to establish contacts and maintain relationships with my principal stakeholders. Before engaging stakeholders, I need to prioritise the stakeholders, to engage them effectively. The more complex the business, the more would be the stakeholders to deal with and this is not easy. Some strategies are there such as the nine Cs to determine who I will engage with first. Four sector or Nine sector table can be used to determine at what level and what kind of engagement is needed for e.g. whether it is to inform, educate, manage, monitor and so on. In the event of  a change in  strategies, one can decide with the help of a char, who needs to be influenced and what kind of information would be needed to satisfy and persuade the stakeholders in the direction of the change.(Balogun, 2014)

I would seek to establish effective communication mechanisms. Various methods will be used to engage with them include direct methods like face to face interactions, conferences, AGMs and indirect methods including the use of social media. Calls, audiovisual media, intermet etc will also be used ( The key to effective stakeholder communications, 2013)

2.3. Explain how you would involve them when taking decision about the supermarket.

For my customers, who are the target of our business, we would conduct surveys and opinion polls, amongst other methods, of obtaining their feedback on our products and services as well as identifying new customers. It is a matter of building trust in our brand and our endeavour will to be as clear-cut as possible in the information we deliver to the customers. Suppliers and Producers, who are the ultimate source of our products, are very critical stakeholders too. We believe in sharing information on prices, product reviews, strategies and markets so that there can be mutual give and take and transparency on our operating principles as well as procedures in place to facilitate transactions with the suppliers, farmers, the warehouse staff and the store. This would help facilitate development of better products for sale and build a trusty relationship. Employees are the backbone of our business and whatever decisions we take will be bound to impact them. So our aim is to ensure that whatever new changes are made will involve heir perspective and their benefits. As far as the management is concerned, I will be negotiating with them to ensure that our marketing plans are in line with the strategic goals.   We will take their feedback into account during critical decision making. (The key to effective stakeholder communications, 2013)

2.4 Design strategies for improvement Explain what you would do differently when contacting and involving stakeholders in your decision making.

Previous communication approaches was mainly one sided i.e. companies had the greater power and the audience had to be satisfied with information provided. But now, with the growth of social media, businesses can no longer continue with that policy. In line with this, we are trying to enable our communication processes to be two way, to ensure give and take between us and our stakeholders. We are also aiming at providing a realistic picture rather than a too optimistic view of our plans including areas which did not do well as expected. As customers tend to be pretty finicky about the brands they use, this may help them understand why certain products were not retained. What we need to work on is our public image. So far we have focussed on the business aspects.  We now are planning to introduce products and activities which will humanise our image.  Diverse skills are needed to engage with stakeholders and we are developing training programs in that direction. (Stakeholder engagement: A practical guide, 2013)

Task 3 Developing communication processes

  • Report on processes of communication existing in an organisation.

Communication within an organisation occurs at various levels, from top to bottom hierarchical fashion as well as in a lateral fashion. Organisation communication pertains to transmission/dissemination of any kind of information relevant to the business aims/goals/strategies/procedures. It can occur at two levels: External and Internal. As HR Manager of Arcadia group, I have the responsibility of ensuring efficient communication between the head group and the various sub divisions. So far, we have had a system focussed on mainly top-down communication. For our system, it would be good to have a system where there is a balance of downward, upward and lateral communication. The downward communication (from the management to the hierarchical lower levels) should be restricted to matters pertaining to the overall goal and direction of the group, which is the business of selling high price clothing. Maximum communication should be at the lateral level as there are several departments involved, as this is where the common strategies and marketing plans for the products are designed and where there should be sharing and consistency. Upward communication is essential as feedback on how company policies and procedures are faring at the ground level (customer) and implementation issues need to be discussed and shared with the top leadership. (Organisational Communication, 2013)

3.2 You have identified information do not reach the local store manager due to distortion in the communication process. Explain what could be the cause and how you would improve the communication process to ensure information get to the local store managers.

After doing some appraisal, I have obtained information that there are some barriers which are interfering in the communication flow, as a result of which not all information is reaching the local store managers. Some of the reasons were:

  1. Language barriers ~ Some of the lower level staff were not proficient enough in the English language and either did not understand or misunderstood the communication.
  2. Technical language – Many of the documents used extensive technical language, which were not comprehended by the employees. As a result, the understanding of the issues was not clear and many just sat on it.
  3. Attitudes- Some employees did not seem interested and did not bother to reply or share their views on issues as they were afraid of being penalised by their superiors.

After ascertaining the reasons, I decided to have a meeting with the local store managers to discuss these issues, get an idea of their perspective and discuss possible solutions and implementability. Some of the suggestions involved ensuring better communication procedures between the managers, supervisors and the staff, development of frequent feedback and redressal systems. (Organisational Communication, 2013)

3.3 As Human Resources Manager design a communication plan on how the local store managers could improve their communication skills.

Following the meeting, and based on the discussions, I decided to introduce some measures which would ensure the smooth integration of different channels of communication  and reduces the blockages in information reception, perception and transmission.  One of the measures to decide upon was to improve the communication skills of the local store managers. We decided on the following:

  1. Consistent mechanisms for delivery of information, in a format which would be comprehended by the recipient
  2. When issues are of a complex nature, use live meetings or conferences, where face to face communication can take place. This will reduce confusion and increase clarity and reduce misunderstanding
  3. Use of written communication for informing matters of procedural and technical nature
  4. Use appropriate channel for delivery of message depending on the kind of message. Avoid email for delivery of bad news.
  5. Use of simpler language keeping the employee context in mind.
  6. Avenues for informal feedback. (Sample Communication Process, 2013)
  • Create a personal plan to improve own communication skills

In alignment with the goal of improving the company communication skills, I designed a plan for improving my own:

  1. Join a communication course to practice speaking skills.
  2. Practice active listening, which will make me focus better on what people are actually trying to say.
  3. Practice understanding of body language to understand the non verbal signs during a live meeting.
  4. Make efforts to understand company culture and employee culture and try to devise communications which would harmonise the two.

Task 4 Improving systems relating to information and knowledge

4.1 A report on approaches regarding the formatting, collection, storage and dissemination of information and knowledge and explain how you would manage the same in your college.

Earlier approaches were focussed on storing and not sharing information, new approaches include sharing and dissemination of information amongst the management and shareholders of the organisation. This entire process comes under the term of Knowledge Management.  As I am the Information Manager at Williams College, it is my responsibility to manage the knowledge related to students’. Knowledge is of two types tacit and explicit. Tacit knowledge is that obtained by personal experience. Explicit knowledge is that which is in documentable form (stored in websites, papers, books etc. Creation of knowledge involves the conversion of the former to the latter and involves four processes via socialisation, externalisation, combination and internalisation. Much of the information vital to the organisation including core and enabling knowledge exists in the form of tacit knowledge, to identify the sources and retrieve information is a challenge. (Knowledge Management, 2013). As Manager, I need to manage the collection of explicit information of the students (as for e.g. educational achievements, medical information, publications) as well as tacit knowledge which may be of use. The former can be obtained by procedures which help in release of such documents and the latter from interactions with the students and those who are familiar with the students (personal communications). Juxtaposition of these two sources will lead to creation of new knowledge. I am also ensuring that a knowledge management system is in place to ensure ability to retrieve, add and share information. IT based technologies including use of databases, content management systems, Data mining tools, search tools, discussion forums, blogs, web conferencing, Performance Management Systems,   will be used in this regard.

4.2 When you were appointed as information manager at Williams College you found out that Information is improperly handled, explain how you would improve the collection, formatting, storage and dissemination of students information.

After taking office, I found that there was considerable mess in storage of information. The College was still heavily dependent on use of paper based documentation for storage. Carelessness and lack of proper care, had led to the loss of valuable information. After critical meetings, I started a complete overhaul of the system, replacing most of the information storage system with electronic systems and ensuring information was stored in digital form. Information collection was done through online web portals and forms, Information storage in database. Proper retrieval and security measures were installed so that only authorised people (staff and students) could retrieve the information. (Knowledge Management, 2013)

4.3 Implement a strategy to improve access to systems of information and knowledge. Explain how you would improve the library systems and information flow at Williams College.

This is a time of information explosion and overload, and hence it is necessary for organisations to have easy and efficient methods of access to information. Due to the high costs of access to resources (scientific, for e.g.) attempts are on towards creating open access methods , which will make information available for free, while protecting the rights of the creators. In our college too, we are making attempts to make more information available to our students and staff. We have introduced open access repositories, and are establishing Open Access policies to ensure that certain kinds of information are available to one and all, while ensuring confidential information remains inviolate.

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